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24 Sep 13

Serbian Minister Promises Cash for ‘Real’ Culture

Serbia’s new culture minister said that the government should not be funding ‘showbusiness’ but argued that there was enough money to finance good ideas in the arts field.

Politika Belgrade
Serbian culture minister Ivan Tasovac | Photo by Beta

“We need to establish criteria that can separate culture from the showbusiness. We will achieve that by strengthening cultural institutions,” newly-appointed minister Ivan Tasovac told Serbian daily Politika on Tuesday.

Tasovac, a pianist and director of the Belgrade Philharmonic, argued that state and municipal culture budgets should not be underwriting pop singers’ performances in city squares, for example.

He said that the question of funding for culture was important, but not as important as the establishment of the correct criteria about what should and should not be financed.

“In Serbia we still have more money than ideas, and that is a fact,” he said.

He also insisted in the interview that “whenever we had something valuable on the market of ideas, we didn’t have problems finding money for it”.

Tasovac, now 47, first performed with the Belgrade and Zagreb Philharmonic Orchestras at the age of 12, has won numerous international awards and was credited with giving the Belgrade orchestra a new image through humorous promotional campaigns.

He took the post of culture minister on September 4 after the Serbian government was reshuffled, saying he had to do it because he had made so many public comments about the cultural situation over the past few years.

“When the offer came I could accept it, or be silent for the rest of my life,” Tasovac told Politika.

He said that his job was important because “the lack of culture in a society creates an excessive amount of violence”.

Minister Tasovac said that he had already met with the National Cultural Council, which is three years late drafting a document called the National Strategy of Culture, and that he was waiting to be informed about what was holding it up.

“Something tells me that we will have to and be able to move things [forward] without the strategy,” he said.

Tasovac has requested that the managing boards of all cultural institutions make public calls for directors before October 1.

“I will not influence the process, but will interfere if the procedure breaks down, especially if the work is not transparent,” he said.

Tasovac said that the reconstruction of buildings housing important arts institutions - such as the National Museum in Belgrade that has been closed for more than ten years and the Museum of Contemporary Arts that has been padlocked for more than five years - was not a matter for the culture ministry.

“The ministry is not a construction company, and it will not announce public tenders for construction works... That task will be left to the cultural institutions [themselves] which will thus take a share of the responsibility,” he said.

The ministry will, he said, insist that these two museums reopen to visitors as soon as possible.

But he added that they are not the only ones facing difficulties because there are 46 more museums in Serbia that have their own problems.


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